Decorated in extravagant North African style, a bubbly bar/restaurant basement near Liverpool Street; its handy location and its style – suited to parties and, arguably, romance – has already made it a popular City destination, but prices (and the noise level) are very high, and culinary standards are ordinary in the extreme.
The former occupant of this basement site, in the Drapers Gardens development, near Liverpool Street, was a good-value Japanese restaurant (Satu) which never seemed to gather the following it deserved. Its North African successor seems to have pulled off a more financially rewarding trick: it offers poor value, but seems to have found a ready City following.
Part of the appeal must be that if you’re looking for a party/romantic-type venue, the range of choices in EC postcodes is slim. But here you can be partying (or having a Brief Encounter) one moment, and on the train to Chelmsford 10 minutes later.
You can’t help feeling that it’s the locational advantage here which is driving prices to dizzy levels. There’s certainly nothing special about the food: the cheapest evening choice in the main dining room is a (not especially lavish) set menu for £28. We’ve eaten better (at Covent Garden’s Souk Medina, for example) at less than half the price. Here, a basic dinner for two (no desserts), with a bottle of ordinary wine apiece (yes, it’s that sort of place) came to over £120. Given that no one actually enjoyed the food, it was one of our worst-value meals of the year.
That’s not to say that the overall package doesn’t have its plus points. The good-looking staff (and that includes the belly dancers) work hard (as you’d hope for a 15% charge). The come-with-me-to-the-Casbah styling works well and there’s a good vibe (and a high noise level). Momo, however, this is not. The purely City crowd the place attracts is more conscious of being up bright and early next morning than the louche loungers you might hope to meet where Mafyair rubs up against Soho – as those last trains beckon, the atmosphere noticeably begins to fall away,